Program Director and Chef Scott Lingle started out in the dish room and has earned every burn and cut on his way to becoming a certified executive chef.

Bean’s Cafe is a soup kitchen located in downtown Anchorage. The cafe provides warm and nutritious food, a warm and comfortable physical environment, an opportunity for socializing in an accepting atmosphere, and referrals and social services information to anyone requesting assistance. We exist to fight hunger for all ages, one meal at a time, while providing a pathway to self-sufficiency with dignity and respect. We rely almost solely on private donations to serve nearly 1,000 meals per day, with Alaska seafood and salmon being one of our most used and sought after commodities.

Long before it was called the oil state, Alaska was called the salmon state. Alaskans have a deep, personal relationship with their salmon. These remarkable fish provide a fundamental source of food, livelihood and identity. They connect generations and communities throughout the state. The clients of Bean’s Cafe are from vastly different backgrounds and all value a salmon way of life. Salmon is often represented in carved totem poles and is a symbol of abundance, renewal, fertility and dependability.

Here at Bean’s Cafe, we remain good stewards of the food items we receive as donations. Understanding what items like salmon mean to our guests is vital to making sure everyone is receiving proper nutrition and portions to aid in fulfilling our cultural and dietary needs. Bean’s Cafe has found salmon to be one of the pillars of life in Alaska.

Our donations come from a wide range of sources, from private donations such as “I limited out, so here is the extra” to corporate donations from seafood partners like the Pacific Seafood Processors Association and Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Bean’s Cafe accepts 100 percent of all donations and evaluates them. The chefs come together to decide the best way to maximize the products’ potential for service. Some days this might include a hearty, soul satisfying Alaska salmon chowder, and other days lunch or dinner might consist of a grilled piece of salmon with beautiful red beet and orange relish.

Bean’s Cafe is extremely nimble and resourceful with how we utilize food donations. We feel it is important to recognize that all parts of the salmon can be eaten: the head, skin, stomach, liver, eggs and even the milt. Gone are the days of a soup kitchen being about beans, rice and water. We are trying to touch the lips of guests with flavors from their past as well as introduce flavors of the present.

Still, though, we try not to forget that some of the best ways we can honor our Alaska salmon is with a little salt and pepper slathered with some mayonnaise and then baked. Seafood is a definite preference of our guests, and salmon is one of the main food sources that many grew up on.

Being food insecure and then receiving a meal that is lovingly cooked and reminds you of a time that was better for you does wonders for your dignity and morale. The more we learn, the more we can see how the fish plays a critical role in every piece of the area’s environment and development.

One time I was asked: “What is it that I wish we had more of?” That is a tough question because my team is here to provide so much for the less fortunate, with no judgement.

We demonstrate to our community that Bean’s Cafe truly utilizes their generous donations: Those fish bellies and salmon heads that might otherwise be discarded will provide warm nutritious meals by honoring the product and the people it will serve. We will use it all to fight hunger one meal at a time.

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